The Cost of Building A Fellowship

The last few months have been a bit difficult at church because our numbers continue to be around six (counting myself, the other worship leader, the pastor and his wife!). I know last summer my mindset was very much about improving the website to help “advertise” that we were even around in Long Beach. And then I thought that maybe part of the solution was to use the website itself as a kind of virtual community, especially for those who couldn’t make weekly meetings etc. The crux of my thinking was that I felt like we needed more than a Sunday only thing happening and I was hoping (at least for a few minutes) that the numbers could be bolstered and community built online. Ha. That’s funny. We’re not a tech-savvy group, so going in that direction wasn’t going to happen. So, the focus has continued to be about Sunday morning in our little room in the Lakewood “Y,” and a different set of two to six shows up every Sunday.

One good thing that’s come out of this is that I have a new appreciation for the work that it takes to build a church. I’ve spent a lot of Sunday mornings talking to Ron (the other or main worship leader) listening to what it took when he worked with a prior pastor to build the church. Alas, it took much much more than just showing up on Sunday. I mean, I know that I can literally spend days working through my little set of six songs, as would a pastor spend on prayerfully creating a message. But what I didn’t previously appreciate is that a pastor wanting to build a fellowship would spend his hours in the community, listening to the needs and concerns of those whom he’d want to bring into the fellowship. According to Ron, a prior pastor and a team spent weeks cold-calling neighborhood folks on the phone, going through the directory to see what they’d be interested in regarding having a local Vineyard in the neighborhood. In a sense, it made it clear to me that it’s not enough to put up a big sign saying that “we’re here” (even on the Internet), but one has to actively go out into the community, engage them in conversation and invite them in. What a concept.

Funny, I’d spent years in countless little Calvary Chapels in my first “go-around” and the ones that flourished were the ones that… well, number one, that were never one-man-shows. Those little one-man-shows might have been okay, but everyone of them disappeared. Granted I wasn’t anywhere near a permanent part of any community, usually ’cause i was just home from college for the weekend, such that I didn’t even notice such things as the relationship between the church and the surrounding community living next to the church. Granted, I grew up in the Catholic Church, where one was serving some world-wide organization and didn’t ask silly things about “growing the church” (I mean, the Catholic way is just to have more babies, and there were always more babies). So, I never really appreciated the work involved in keeping a church running. It’s not enough to say a few quick prayers over the course of the week, and just show up on Sunday and expect it all to work. JBB

Music: Sam Phillips – Libera Me – The Turning

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